Released: 2009, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this release, as the band features former Pestilence bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling and former Necrophagist guitarist Christian Muenzner in its ranks. As a big fan of technical and progressive metal (especially both of the aforementioned bands), I was curious as to what COSMOGENESIS, the band’s second full length would offer. After spending some quality time with this disc, I can tell you that Obscura is bound to be your new favorite band and COSMOGENESIS is one monster of an album.
Given the lineage in its ranks, I was expecting a full force, progged out noodle fest. What I got was 9 songs of exceptionally crafted technical death metal, with some progressive elements woven into the song structures. Much of the criticism levied towards Thesseling’s and Muenzer’s former bands involves sacrificing songwriting for flash and shred. The liner notes in Pestilence’s SPHERES album listed enough computer and processing equipment to power the Space Shuttle, and none of it could save the album. Thankfully filler free, COSMOGENESIS is filled with a gazillion riffs, shape shifting time signatures, and just enough tastefully interjected guitar solos to remind you how bad your chops are in comparison.
“Anticosmic Overload” opens the disc with intensity and urgency that will have your head nodding within moments. Vocalist/second guitarist Steffen Kummerer lets you know up front that this is most certainly a death metal album, with a combination of guttural growls and higher end scowls. What caught my attention immediately though was the presence of Thesseling’s amazing bass work in the mix. Though certainly syncing in complicated rhythms with drummer Hannes Grossmann, the 6 string fretless bass is treated almost as a third guitar instead of being delegated to the usual secondary accentual role. The bass lines are independent riffs of their own, often harmonizing with the layers of guitar work or riding an alternate, contrasting riff. It’s a little off putting at first, but as the disc progresses you begin to realize how important of a contribution it is. COSMOGENESIS gets progressively better with each track, which will engage you to keep listening as well as provoke several “wow, that was really good” moments throughout the listen. “Choir Momentum” is a calculated effort (“slower” wouldn’t capture it correctly at all) and offers some sci-fi effects on the vocals and some great hooks. “Desolate Spheres” is a jazz infused instrumental that is quite possibly one of the best tracks on the album; you simply have to hear it to appreciate it. The speed driven escalation in the opening verses of “Noospheres” sounds eerily similar to HUMAN-era Death, and whether by conscious decision or not it’s yet another high point. After the final fade outs of “Centric Flow”, you might just find yourself pressing play again to make sure it wasn’t a first listen fluke.
If you’re looking for the catch, I’m sorry – there isn’t one. Obscura has done a fantastic job of merging a variety of influences into a brutal end result that succeeds on all levels. COSMOGENESIS is death metal enough to satisfy genre purists as well as complex enough to prompt the progressive fans to start searching out guitar tabs on the internet. No question at all, this is the best death metal album of 2009 so far – consider yourself warned.